Descriptive terms are like the markers on a knowledge map. Maps are so important that Apple recently cashiered the executive who launched its somewhat inaccurate quilt of outsourced online maps (arguably the most-ridiculed Apple blunder since the skateboard-sized Newton).
So we need terms to be accurate and granular enough that we can use them successfully to navigate our study of digital user behavior. We don't like getting lost - not in Kansas, not in our analytics tools.
Some of the changes in the market have rendered some terms almost meaningless for the purposes of measurement, and are in need of redefinition. Just like what happens when the old road dead-ends at the new overpass, we need the latest information in order to keep from crashing into a wall.
Here are my top three suggestions for terms in need of redefinition:
Web. Yes, it means too many things now. Simply agreeing it's dub-dub-dub-and-done doesn't do it anymore. What are you using it for, and which version draws your audience? Even a foundational industry organization such as the Web Analytics Association is now the Digital Analytics Association.
Consider this: the same "web" content may come in several flavors for different audiences. With HTML5, you can create highly interactive experiences. But users with even relatively new browsers and OS versions may need you to create a four-door sedan version with fewer knobs and smaller woofers. And there may even be a static page version for the later adopters. Then consider the browsing experience and commensurate behavior on an iPad. Or the microscopic (OK, zoomable) text on a smartphone. That's web-based. But not like the PC version. And what about shared or syndicated media? We could cite more examples. But the term "web" can mean at least these things right now that are especially important to marketers:
Web in a browser on a PC with page-to-page navigation
Web in a browser on a PC with interactive navigation
Web on a large-screen mobile device
Web on a tiny-screen mobile device
Web coming from somewhere you may not control (syndicated, campaign-related, or from social media like Facebook or LinkedIn)
We have room here only to scratch the surface. Clearly, the browser itself is no longer enough to define what we call "the web." The town has matured into a city and has quite a number of clearly defined districts. Get to know the neighborhood!
Mobile. Measuring "mobile" as a category has become something like saying "New York" without specifying whether you mean the city or the state. I know a guy who grew up in the Catskills and moved to Florida as a teenager. They wanted to know what gang he'd belonged to in New York, as if he'd been haunting the streets of Bushwick.
Recently, Black Friday e-commerce data told us that iOS users converted at drastically higher levels than Android users. Lumping mobile together without specifying platform-type would have left you misinformed. Like Bogie in Casablanca, you'd have come to the desert "for the waters." Worldwide, many mobile users are "text only," and sometimes they buy things that way. Many are not even using web protocols. And of course nearly every app is for a mobile audience. Apps behave very differently than websites and require special tools to measure them. Finally, it seems laptops should be considered part of "mobile," since they are mobile and get used in many environments where other mobile devices also get used. So new definitions of mobile might include:
Mobile web iOS
Mobile web Android
Mobile PC (laptop)
Analytics. For the marketer, analytics has come to mean web, or more recently, digital analytics. But each of these terms has become emblematic of "siloed" information. And many organizations are calling ardently for more correlated data. They want to know about their sites, their campaigns, their social, their call center, and every touch point in between. Plus, many are hoping for a predictive capability too. They want to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. Where does the magic happen?
The magic can happen when all the data shows up in one place. Some teams are doing this by hand with spreadsheets and custom algorithms; and now the number of vendors claiming to automate this for the marketer is myriad. It really is a rapidly evolving sector, and the new requirements are obsoleting even the term "digital analytics." Because when you put everything into one interface, you are converging data.
Therefore, analytics becomes (for the marketer):
Single silo analytics
Manually correlated analytics
Of the three definitions, the last is likely to become the de facto appellation for most analytics going forward, as it most accurately defines both the supply and the demand.
If this column prompts a discussion about granularity and correlation, it will have made an impact. By drawing up a more detailed terminology map, you'll find yourself taking a much more direct route to Insight Boulevard.
At Technology Leaders, Andrew created the firm's web analytics practice and has been involved in rolling out this service to hundreds of different customers worldwide. Technology Leaders provides web analytics and web site user-tracking expertise to leading organizations throughout North America and the world. The firm specializes in providing both business and technical skills to serve the complex digital marketing needs of its customers.
Andrew speaks and writes regularly about the latest trends in digital marketing and web analytics. He's the creator of the "e5o" virtuous digital marketing cycle as well as the "4x5 conversion cube" that compartmentalizes the approach to conversion for different site types in different stages of the customer lifecycle.
Andrew is an award-winning, nationally exhibited painter and his work is in numerous private collections.